February 2, 2011

Winter Panzanella

Today is our 6th snow day in 2011. We haven't had a full week of school yet this semester. You'd think that with so many days off, stuck in the house, that I would be super productive. You'd be wrong. I tend to increase my laziness on impromptu vacation days. Instead of catching up on grading, reading more, cleaning, or doing laundry, I tend to zone out in front of the computer or piddle around in the kitchen. 

And, you know what? I don't feel bad about that at all. 

Last weekend, knowing that a snowpocalyse was approaching St. Louis, I planned a few cooking projects for the week...involving comforting winter recipes that are healthier than my usual carb-loaded cold weather fare.

The first of those recipes is a winter panzanella. Panzanella is a summertime salad made with toasted bread cubes, ripe tomatoes, garden-fresh basil, & soft mozzarella cheese. It is our favorite thing to eat in the summer. Of course, the pale, mealy tomatoes you find in the winter will just not do in a salad. So, I found a more seasonally-appropriate version that replaces the tomatoes & basil with radicchio & brussels sprouts. Crispy bacon & crunchy apples are added. It's really delicious, filling & comforting. 

Winter Panzanella
adapted from Bon Appetit

serves 2-4

For the croutons:
2 cups 3/4-inch cubes crusty bread *
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

* I used a roasted garlic loaf from my supermarket's bakery & omitted the garlic clove.

For the dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
freshly-ground black pepper
Kosher salt

For the salad:
1 head of radicchio - halved, cored, & thinly-sliced
1 pound brussels sprouts - trimmed & quartered lengthwise
4 slices thick-cut, applewood-smoked bacon - cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 Granny Smith apple - cored & chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 shallot - finely chopped
block of Parmesan cheese

To make the croutons:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with the oil, garlic, a few grinds of pepper & a pinch of salt until evenly coated. Spread on a baking sheet & bake until pale golden brown, 6-10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from oven & set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.
To make the dressing:
  • Whisk together the vinegar, cider, thyme, a few grinds of pepper & a pinch of salt. Continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in the oil. Set aside.
To make the salad:
  • Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy, transfer to a paper-towel to drain.
  • Add the brussels sprouts to the bacon drippings, season with salt & pepper, stir and cook until just tender (about 5 minutes).
  • In a large serving bowl, toss together the radicchio, sprouts, bacon, apple, shallots, & croutons. Add some of the dressing & toss to coat. Do not use all the dressing. Check to see if you need more dressing. There should NOT be any dressing pooling on the bottom of the bowl.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, shave large slices of Parmesan cheese over the salad & toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately.

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